United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Mussafah / Dunes International School

Dunes International School Review

Dunes International School is a CBSE curriculum school located in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi. It has a somewhat chequered background, having originally been established in 1988 prior to relocation to its current site in 2014, and the entry into a management agreement with Ryan International Group (involving a name change), which was subsequently cancelled at short notice in 2017.
Parents' Rating
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3.3 out of 5 based on 809 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
AED 17,500
Annual fees
AED 12,000–23,500
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1988
School year
Apr to Mar
Teacher turnover help
9%
Principal
Paramjit Bakshis Singh Ahluwalia
Owner
Ismaeil Khoori
Community
Main teacher nationality
India
Main student nationality
India
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Dunes International School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
AED 17,500
Annual fees
AED 12,000–23,500
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1988
School year
Apr to Mar
Teacher turnover help
9%
Principal
Paramjit Bakshis Singh Ahluwalia
Owner
Ismaeil Khoori
Community
Main teacher nationality
India
Main student nationality
India
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Dunes International School is a CBSE curriculum school located in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi. It has a somewhat chequered background, having originally been established in 1988 prior to relocation to its current site in 2014, and the entry into a management agreement with Ryan International Group (involving a name change), which was subsequently cancelled at short notice in 2017.

The story so far...

Dunes International School (DIS) is located in the Shabia area of Mussafah, close to a number of international schools that serve this growing area.

The school has an interesting history. Dunes International is, we believe, the third incarnation of this CBSE curriculum school. Originally opened as the Indian Modern Science School, management was then taken over in 2014 by the Ryan International Group when the school relocated to its new site in Mussafah and was renamed Ryan Private School.   In 2017, there was a commercial disagreement between the owner and the management company, resulting in Ryan International dissolving the arrangement. They continue to operate Ryan International School at Masdar City.

With such an unsettled past, it might be expected that the school, and particularly its staff, would be equally unsettled, but this is apparently not the case. The constant, certainly since 2016, has been Mr. Paramjit Bakshis Singh Ahluwalia, who has remained in his role as Principal throughout the recent changes and continues to lead the school.

According to the school's website, it mission is "to integrate the essential skills of learning in our students by embracing the changing trends in the instructional strategies. Academically, we believe in [an] inquiry-based approach to learning, considering the generation of students who learn to be critical thinkers, to be able to undertake research and think deeply about the essential questions that underpin their academic coursework".

Further, the school states on its website:

"We are a school that is both traditional and modern. Traditional in the values that we seek to instill in our students: kindness, courtesy and integrity are timeless qualities of character. Our focus on academic rigor and use of educational technology are constantly evolving and innovative. Our objective is to train our students to be capable of doing new things and not merely repeating the past".

This statement appears to be borne out by the ADEK report of 2017, when DIS was rated Good, which noted that "The school is developing students’ innovation skills well. Specific lessons dedicated for activities and the school’s enrichment programme provide many opportunities for students to develop their gifts and talents. Students of all ages have developed innovative mathematical puzzles and science models. The robotic car is a stunning example of research and planning to illustrate built-in safety features".  

At the time of the most recent ADEK inspection in 2018-19 - which took place in September 2018, so now three and half years ago - DIS had a total of approximately 1,100 students, the largest proportion in the KG and Primary sections. As is common in newer schools, the numbers of students decrease substantially though the middle and high school sections.

As would be anticipated, the majority of students are Indian (95%), with a small number of Pakistani (3%) and Bangladeshi students (1%), making up the bulk of the remaining nationalities. Teachers, who number some 90, and teaching assistants (a further 20) are also overwhelmingly Indian, and seem relatively happy with their employment – staff turnover when last inspected by ADEK, was 9%. This is well below the average for international schools of 20-22%, although about average for an Indian curriculum school. The overall teacher:student ratio of 1:12 is very much on the low side and should ensure individualised support for students.

What about the curriculum?

DIS offers the CBSE curriculum with additional subjects including Hindi or French, ICT, Drama, Music, Art, and Physical Education, with the aim of offering students an education "built on the strong principles and framework of Indian education".

Using the English language medium, according to DIS, the curriculum is enhanced by mapping to international boards and learning programmes that strengthen academics and skill development.  ICT is used by the teachers and students, with an inquiry-based, collaborative and problem solving approach.   In common with all UAE schools, the Arabic language is taught and is compulsory for all, whilst Islamic studies is compulsory for Muslim students. UAE culture, heritage and cultural appreciation is an integral part of the curriculum.

The All India Secondary Examination, conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi, is held at the end of Grade 10. Subjects offered include the core subjects of  English, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Computer Science, and optional languages include Hindi and French.  Arabic is a compulsory subject in Grades 9 and 10 and a school based internal examination for Arabic is conducted in both the years, as is an Islamic Studies examination for Muslim students.  Work Experience, Art Education and Physical Education classes as per CBSE requirements are also woven into the curriculum.

DIS has only relatively recently offered Grade 12 with a small group of 29 students in its first cohort.  Subjects taken by the students - clearly offered as Science and Commerce streams - included English, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Computer Science, Economics, Business Studies, Accountancy, Entrepreneurship and Physical Education.  The school has not published the results of these exams.

A school counsellor is available to provide university and career advice, and emotional support to students. In addition, DIS holds annual meetings, parent teacher meetings and career fairs, together with lectures from past or graduating students, with the aim of supporting senior students in determining their next steps after their completion of school.

In addition to the core and optional academic subjects, DIS is said to offer a wide range of Extra-curricular activities and clubs.  There is a particular focus on Art, Craft, Music and Dance.   The school has a dedicated music teacher and has won inter-school singing competitions, as well as organising its own band.  

What about support for students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents?

 Approximately 20 students were identified with SEN requirements, whilst a relatively larger group were deemed to be Gifted and Talented.  It is clear that the school fully intends to support students with additional needs and Gifts and Talents. 

The most recent inspection report notes; "Students with special educational needs (SEN) are identified accurately and supported in class, resulting in their good outcomes. The identification of students who are gifted and talented (G&T) is also good. However, the support and challenge for these students in lessons remains an area for improvement."

What about the Facilities?

Dunes International School is located in a modern building in Mussafah to which it relocated in 2014.  As such, we understand that it has good facilities and resources.  The building is spread over three floors in an E shape with outdoor sports space to the rear.

All classrooms have interactive white boards, and there are specialist facilities for Science (including individual labs for Biology, Physics and Chemistry) and Technology (including an ICT lab, and robotics), a large library with computers set up for research and individual study, an Art room, a Music room, a Dance studio and provision for Drama (including a large auditorium). The school provides facilities for a range of sports including Swimming, Basketball, Cricket, Soccer and Karate.

What about Academic Achievement?

As yet, DIS has not published details of its students' academic successes.  According to ADEK, "in 2016, a small cohort of Grade 10 students achieved above international expectations in CBSE external examinations in English". 

Clearly, significantly more data is now available at Dunes International School and we, at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, would hope that the school will begin to share results - not only in order to celebrate the achievements of its students, but also to enable prospective students and their parents to judge how well the school is performing compared with others following the same curriculum.

What the inspectors say

Having originally been rated C6 (an improving school) in 2014-15, Dunes International School achieved a Good rating under the new inspection rating scheme in 2017 and was again awarded the third highest rating in its 2018-19 inspection.  This is the level that ADEK wishes all schools to achieve.

Summarising their findings, the inspection team noted that "The overall performance of the school is good. Leaders have maintained standards in all subjects and all performance standards. They have raised students’ achievement in Arabic as a second language (ASL) and English in the Kindergarten (KG). Teachers are now using more diverse teaching strategies in the classroom, resulting in high levels of engagement by students. However, lessons are not always sufficiently challenging for higher-achieving students. There are limited opportunities for students to develop their critical-thinking and innovation skills in lessons." 

Overall strengths of Dunes International School were found to be:

  • Students’ raised achievement in Arabic as second language.
  • Students’ positive attitudes to learning and their relationships with others.
  • Teachers’ use of diverse teaching strategies and activities to engage students in their learning.
  • Identification and support for students with special educational needs.
  • Leaders’ promotion of a welcoming, positive and inclusive ethos, and their partnership with all stakeholders.

Key areas for improvement were found to be:

  • Raise students’ achievement in all subjects, particularly in mathematics by:
    - ensuring all lessons build on students’ prior learning and understanding
    - providing work that is sufficiently challenging
    - helping students to understand mathematical concepts through visual and practical modelling
    - planning work that promotes critical-thinking, independent problem solving and innovation skills in all lessons.
  • Improve teaching and learning by:
    - providing more challenging work in lessons, particularly for the higher-achieving students, including those who are gifted and talented.
    - asking open-ended questions to challenge and deepen understanding
    - using moderated assessment data more effectively to personalise future learning.
  • Develop leadership and management by:
    - evaluating the school objectively through triangulating information and noting the impact sources of information has on students’ learning and outcomes
    - training teachers to understand what constitutes as innovation in lessons, and how to develop students’ critical-thinking skills.
    - ensuring all leaders continue to monitor teaching and learning, but focus on students’ achievements
    - supporting middle leaders to understand and use data to write a strategic action plan that sets targets to raise achievement.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.

The Buzz

Dunes International School parents have submitted over 800 school surveys to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com - an absolute record for the UAE!  Parents were for the most part very positive about the school, with an overall score of 3.5/5 or a positivity rating of 70%.

Parents believed that their children enjoy going to school and have a fairly strong sense of belonging.  They are satisfied with the school's academic performance, communication and disciplinary policy (and its implementation). In our key rating which provides the most indicative view of a school in our opinion, an overwhelming 84% of parents would whole-heartedly recommend the school to other parents, whilst 13% were not quite sure and 3% said that they would not. 

If there is a specific 'niggle', as is so often the case, it relates to school fees.  Only 36% of parents agreed that they represented value for money, whilst 56% partially agreed, and 8% disagreed with premise.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Dunes International School, please share your thoughts and opinions with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.

Certainly the impression of the ADEK inspection team was a positive one.  They noted that "The principal’s promotion of a welcoming, positive and inclusive ethos is at the heart of the school. Partnerships with parents and the community result in positive learning experiences being afforded to the students."

Our View

Dunes International School was set some clear targets for improvement in advance of its next inspection and has clearly succeeded in implementing almost all of the recommendations from the ADEK team from the previous one.  It is clearly now a solidly Good school, and in our view, has the potential to reach the Very Good rating (which has currently been achieved by only one Indian curriculum school in Abu Dhabi), when the inspection process recommences post Covid 19.

This is a school with a future focus, which seems to be trying to incorporate a more forward-looking approach to its teaching and curriculum, using innovation and an enquiry-based focus on learning.  This can only be a positive in this increasingly fast-moving and technology-driven world where innovation and research will be at the core of future developments.

What about the Fees?

Tuition fees at Dunes International School are mid-range for a CBSE curriculum school, starting at AED 12,000 in KG1, rising to AED 23,500 for Grades 11 and 12.  Additional fees for books range from AED 400 in KG1 to AED 1,000 in Grade 12.

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Dunes International School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:

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